MonitorsPublished on Aug 21, 2013
As Yemen's two-year transitional period comes to an end, there is increased anticipation regarding Yemen's future. Main points of contention in the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) were pertaining to the solutions to the southern issue.
Uncertainty about Yemen's future
Yemen

As Yemen's two-year transitional period comes to an end, there is increased anticipation regarding Yemen's future. Main points of contention in the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) were pertaining to the solutions to the southern issue. A constitution is being drawn up which is in line with Yemen's federal ambitions.

Following the NDC, it is believed that Yemen is questioning its state structure and is advocating for a federal state. Mr. Yasser Alraeni, the Second Deputy Secretary-General of the NDC has proposed for a more regional outlook where Yemen would be divided into regional provinces. The role of the Army in Yemen and its political life was discussed and it was concluded that Army's primary function is to serve and protect its state.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Yemen Post, August 16, 2013; National Yemen, August 18, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Terrorist threats led to the closure of foreign embassies in Yemen

Following threats from Al-Qaeda, embassies across the Middle East were closed citing 'security concerns' as the primary reason. A tweet from the British Ambassador, Jane Marriott confirmed that the British embassy in Yemen is set to reopen on August 18. She tweeted, "British Embassy #Yemen open as normal from Sunday 18 August. Apologies for the brief hiatus"

< class="text11verdana">Source: Gulf News, August 18, 2013

Lebanon
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Sectarian violence in southern suburbs of Beirut

The prominence of sectarian violence was again reiterated in Lebanon when 22 people were killed in Rweiss, a neighborhood in southern suburb of Beirut. Political scenario of Lebanon is no better than its neighbors as it currently does not have a legitimate government. The explosion happened close to a Hezbollah facility, a Shia political group that has been branded as a terrorist organization by the EU.

Following the explosions, Najib Mikati, the Lebanese PM, declared August 16 as a National day of mourning and called for an emergency meeting. The blast is being associated to the Syrian conflict which is defined by its sectarian nature. In a message posted online, an unknown Sunni group, Aysha Umm-al Mouemeneen, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Hezbollah have been described as supporters of the Assad regime. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in an interview described the Sunni group behind the attack as 'extremists' and defended the organizations position on Assad and Syria. He said "I will go myself to Syria if it is so necessary in the battle against the takfiris "

< class="text11verdana">Source: Al Jazeera, August 16 & 17, 2013

Syria
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UN to investigate the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Civil War

UN inspectors have arrived in Syria to investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons in the ongoing civil war. Inspectors will be in Syria for two weeks and the investigation will only cover three areas which include Khan al-Assal, which is the site of the attack that took place on March 19 and claimed 19 lives.

Security Council has received thirteen reports which outline the alleged use of chemical weapons. It is understood that, disagreements between the UN and the Assad regime led to the delays in the UN's mission to investigate the alleged claims.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Al Jazeera , August 18, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Syrian opposition aims for reconciliation

Ahmad al-Jarba, leader of the Syrian National Coalition requested for developing a unified model to strengthen the rebel army. He argued that due to the involvement of Hezbollah, the Syrian conflict has now entered a more demanding stage where rebels would need to unify against the Assad regime. He said, "We will try to include all fighters in the National Army, all the loyalists and revolutionaries are welcome...But there should be order restored and work should be institutionalized... We will not exclude anyone"

< class="text11verdana">Source: Al Jazeera , August 12, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Syrian refugee crisis

Ongoing Syrian conflict has forced around 1.9 million Syrian citizens to seek refuge in neighboring countries. The most recent influx of refugees has been felt by the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. It is estimated that around 7,000 refugees crossed into Kurdistan via the newly constructed bridge on the Tigris River. Claire Bouurgeois, a UNHCR representative said, "UNHCR is witnessing a major exodus from Syria over the past few days unlike anything we have witnessed entering Iraq previously."

Adrian Edwards, spokesman of the UNHCR, commented on the likely sectarian tensions that can erupt between the local Kurdish population and the refugees, arguing that Kurdistan is relatively safe for the incoming refugees but tensions can increase due to the upcoming elections. Main groups to migrate from Syria have included women, children and the elderly.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Khaleej Times, August 16, 2013; Al Arabiya, August 18, 2013

Egypt
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Power struggle in Egypt

Army overthrew the government that was led by the Muslim Brotherhood on July 6, citing popular sentiment as the primary reason. Many political analysts, international governments and organisations branded the activities of the Egyptian army as authoritarian and what happened in Egypt, a coup. Since then the supporters of Morsi have taken to the streets to revolt against the Army. Before the army attacked the supporters of Muslim Brotherhood on August 14, Gen. Sisi asked for a "mandate" to fight against "violence and terrorism". Sisi in a Facebook message announced, "We will not stand idle in face of the destruction and torching of the country, the terrorizing of the people and the sending of a wrong image to the Western media that there is fighting in the streets."

Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmey sounded optimistic regarding Egypt-US relations, when he addressed a conference in Cairo. He said, "The relationship between Egypt and the US has been there for a long time. It has been through ups and downs in the past. We hope things will go back to normal promptly."

It is claimed that 173 people were killed on Friday during what the Brotherhood called a "Day of Rage." Thereafter, on August 17, there was a siege at al-Fath mosque. Mosque turned into a battleground where Morsi supporters exchanged fire with security forces. This was followed by detention of 36 members of the Brotherhood who are said to be killed while they were attempting to escape prison vehicles.

< class="text11verdana">Source: The Jordan Times, August 19, 2013; Al Ahram, August 18, 2013

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Arab and EU response

Neighbouring Arab states welcomed the Army's decision to overthrow the Brotherhood as they are vary of its growing influence in the region and fear that the revolutionary sentiment might diffuse into their states. Khattar Abu Diab, a professor at University of Paris-Sud, commented that, "All the Gulf monarchies, except for Qatar, and Jordan fear that the Muslim Brotherhood revolution will be exported to them."

EU has warned to carry out an "urgent review" of its relations with Egypt in the light of recent advancements. European Union leaders, Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso, said in a statement that, "The calls for democracy and fundamental freedoms from the Egyptian population cannot be disregarded, much less washed away in blood." They also added that any form of violence and killings cannot be justified and demanded for the release of political prisoners.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Gulf News, August 16&18, 2013

Iran
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Iran's nuclear conundrum

During the inauguration ceremony of the new Iranian Foreign Minster, President Hassan Rohani, asserted that in order to deal with Iran's growing problems it is essential to formulate an effective Foreign policy. He also pledged to "slogan-free diplomacy," adding that "We should show courage to pursue our national interests, and our words should be sensible, to the point, and rational."

Iran's struggle and apparent failure to convince the West that its nuclear activities are peaceful has been a point of contention which has led to the West imposing economic sanctions on Iran.

Catherine Aston emphasized the importance to finding a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue in a telephonic conversation with Iran's new Foreign Minister Mohammad Javed Zarif.

Official talks between Iran and the P5+1 have been at a standstill since April. The Russian ambassador to Iran, Levan Dzhagaryan, suggested that the success of any diplomatic initiatives depends on the World powers' seriousness and Tehran's flexibility. He said, "The experience of the new president of Iran, Hassan Rohani in the early 2000s who headed the team of (Iranian) negotiators is obviously in demand now," adding to his statement, he said, "Adjustments in the direction of greater flexibility is not expected only from one party involved in the negotiations. Success in the final decision also depends on the seriousness of the mood of some members of the 'six' on the political and diplomatic settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue. Russia has always taken a constructive position on this issue."

In the midst of positive Foreign policy talks and diplomatic initiatives, the outgoing Iranian ministers have seized the opportunity to declare Iran's military strengths. Former defense minister Ahmad Vahidi said in an interview that Iran has developed technology to manufacture missiles that is unmatched in the region and is "World's sixth leading county in terms of missile capability". Fereydoun Abbasi, the former director of the Atomic Energy Organization also boasted that Iran has installed 18,000 new centrifuges at its nuclear facilities.

< class="text11verdana">Source: Tehran Times, August 14,17 &18, 2013.

(This monitor is prepared by Prabhat, Research Intern, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)

The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.